The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's which accounts for 50-80% of dementia cases. With the progression of the disease, each person may be able to complete different activities. Below we list forms of therapies that can be helpful and also specific activities. Keeping people active in hobbies and interests that gave them pleasure in the past is important after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
By practicing these activities, you can help exercise their memory, encourage self- expression, emotional connections with others, lessen the anxiety that some may experience and help them feel more active with life. The activities that you are going to complete with those with Alzheimer's not only have to fill their time, but they have to be meaningful activities.
If there is something that they loved in the past, try to do that activity with them and help them if they need the help. Just keep the activities simple and easy for them to complete. If they are not wanting to complete the activity during that time, then just put it away and try another time. It is important to focus on the process of the activity and not the end result. Just enjoy doing the activity together and not the speed in which the activity is done. Not only are you going to be doing something that they love, but you are both going to be able to create those lasting memories with each other.
In our Memory care at Bel Aire Senior Living, we focus on the following types of therapy.
Sensory therapy is focused on anything that affects one of the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), in some ways it also relates to a sense of location and balance. Therapy to help in this area may use swimming, mazes, obstacle courses, constructional toys and building blocks. Hand and eye coordination can be improved with activities such as hitting a ball with a bat, popping bubbles, and throwing and catching balls, beanbags and balloons. Appropriate sensory stimulation will decrease agitation and aggression, calm restlessness, and successfully treat sleep disorders – which are all symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease.
It is a funny thing about Alzheimer’s that memories are lost in reverse order; memories formed recently are more fleeting than those from many years ago. Alzheimer’s disease starts in the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for putting experiences into memory. Not until much later in the disease’s progression does it affect the regions in the brain in which older memories are stored, and so those memories are available even into later stages of the disease. This phenomenon is responsible for much of the behavior and the symptoms commonly associated with Alzheimer’s, and we need to consider its effects when communicating with and selecting activities for people affected by the disease.
Long after most other memories have become inaccessible to a person in a more advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease or some other progressive dementia, that person might remember songs from his or her past and even sing along with them. People often report being surprised when their mother or father who doesn’t remember who they are, and yet, sings a familiar song without missing a word. It’s not just the stimulation caused by the memory of the song that is gratifying and therapeutic, but reminiscences are also conjured. With those reminiscences, emotions that became associated with the songs long ago are brought out and relived. It’s common for a song to elicit smiles, laughter, and even tears.
Planning structured, individualized activities that involve and interest the person with Alzheimer’s may reduce many of the more disturbing behavioral symptoms of AD, such as agitation, anger, frustration, depression, wandering or rummaging. Health professionals who work with Alzheimer’s patients say therapeutic activities should focus on the person’s previous interests, cue the person to old and recent memories and take advantage of the person’s remaining skills while minimizing the impact of skills that may be compromised. Successful activities support a person’s sense of self – bringing out their skills, memories and habits – and reinforce the person’s sense of being in a group, which can provide friendship, mutual support and spiritual of connecting.
People with Alzheimer’s disease don’t lose the capacity for human emotion or recognition of a caring touch, even a person in the very late, severe state of Alzheimer’s retains all these capacities. There are several benefits massage therapy offers people with Alzheimer’s disease, including increased body awareness and alertness, as well as a reduction in the feelings of confusion and anxiety. You also build reassurance and trust. Massage therapy can also help ease the effects of isolation, loneliness and boredom while encouraging feelings of worthiness and well-being.
Doll therapy is also known as baby doll therapy. Anyone who has seen it happen knows that a doll has the power to soothe and comfort people with Alzheimer’s disease. Naturally, more women than men will choose a doll to nurture. It is important that a doll not be given directly to the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Rather it should be left somewhere, on a table or sitting in a chair, for example, somewhere that she will easily find it. This way the individual can make the choice to provide care for the doll, not feel that they are being given the responsibility to do so, which could cause anxiety or result in the doll being rejected.
Artistic and creative talents often remain strong long after Alzheimer’s disease has severely affected memory and other cognitive processes. The creation of art and the enjoyment of art are both viable and effective activities for people with dementia. The benefits derived from creative expression include reminiscence and memory stimulation, socialization, and a decrease in some or the undesirable behavioral aspects of the disease, including anxiety, apathy, and agitation.
Dogs and pets of all kinds have become increasingly common in the treatment of individuals with dementia related disorders. Due to the anxiety that social situations can cause in dementia patients, they often avoid social situations altogether, including interacting with family and loved ones. We also use pet therapy to help our Alzheimer’s residents to improve their social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.
People with Alzheimer’s disease can be soothed and calmed by beanies. With their comforting warmth, varied textures, and a size and weight similar to an infant or small pet, These products provide a calming effect and can reduce anxiety and agitation. A minute or two in the microwave and these furry friends provide two hours of heat and aroma therapy. A little time in the freezer and they are a comforting way to provide cold therapy.
There are many different ideas for activities in this article that will help you with those with Alzheimer's. We used Alzheimers.net for some of our information. To visit their site, click here. If you are interested in more information about the Memory Care at Bel Aire Senior Living, please visit our page by clicking here.